Materials

Stretchable material emits light and heals itself

Stretchable material emits lig...
Asst. Prof. Benjamin Tee (center), with team members Mr. Wang Guanxiang (left) and Dr. Tan Yu Jun (right)
Asst. Prof. Benjamin Tee (center), with team members Mr. Wang Guanxiang (left) and Dr. Tan Yu Jun (right)
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Asst. Prof. Benjamin Tee (center), with team members Mr. Wang Guanxiang (left) and Dr. Tan Yu Jun (right)
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Asst. Prof. Benjamin Tee (center), with team members Mr. Wang Guanxiang (left) and Dr. Tan Yu Jun (right)

Although some tantalizing research is currently underway, we're still waiting to see stretchable electronic displays actually reach production. Well, scientists have now created one that can not only be stretched, but that also self-heals when damaged.

Intended for use in light-emitting capacitor devices, the experimental new technology is known as HELIOS (Healable, Low-field Illuminating Optoelectronic Stretchable).

It is currently being developed by a team at the National University of Singapore, and takes the form of a transparent elastic rubber sheet made of "a unique blend" of fluoroelastomer and surfactant. Fluoroelastomers are fluorocarbon-based synthetic rubbers, while surfactants lower the surface tension between two liquids – they're often used as detergents.

The material has very high dielectric permittivity, allowing it to store more electronic charges at lower voltages than other stretchable display technologies. As a result, it's reportedly able to illuminate 20 times brighter than such materials, while operating on voltages that are four times lower – it can even be powered wirelessly.

Additionally, because the bonds between its molecules are reversible, it's able to heal itself back together after being cut or punctured. What's more, it does so under ambient environmental conditions – so it doesn't need to be heated, for example, for the healing to occur.

It is hoped that once developed further, the technology could be used in applications such as long-lasting wireless displays, or perhaps even in the skin of soft-bodied robots that work in dark environments such as disaster sites.

"As humans become increasingly dependent on machines and robots, there is huge value in using HELIOS to create 'invincible' light-emitting devices or displays that are not only durable but also energy-efficient," says the lead scientist, Asst. Prof. Benjamin Tee. "This could generate long-term cost savings for manufacturers and consumers, reduce electronic waste and energy consumption, and in turn, enable advanced display technologies to become both wallet and environmentally friendly."

A paper on the research has been published in the journal Nature Materials.

Source: National University of Singapore

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